Makybe Diva Returns in Style

Just 25 days after being crowned Australian Horse of the Year, Makybe Diva racked up more firsts with a winning return to the track at Melbourne's Caulfield Aug. 28.

The Diva has conquered long and hard at middle distances and beyond, for two Melbourne Cups and this year's weight-for-age spoils in the Australian Cup and Tancred Classic (all Aust-I).

But the champion distaffer had not won first up, or on the underside of a mile -- her only success at 1,600 meters against maidens. So her latest challenge in the Memsie Stakes (Aust-II) at 1,400 meters might have seemed too sharp but not for a muddy track.

Sent postwards at 13-2 against solid opposition the 6-year-old swamped her rivals in the final stages to win by a long neck from Gilded Time's talented 4-year-old Barely a Moment.

The 6-4 favorite Regal Roller was another half-head away in third, after setting the pace. That the 1:26.75 was more than six seconds outside the track record was due to the conditions.

Makybe Diva, in widening her resume, added $130,000 (Australian funds) to her $9 million-plus earnings for her owner/breeder, Tony Santic.

Jockey Steven King, sitting in for the suspended Glen Boss, declared the mare on target for the $3 million Cox Plate (Aust-I and 2,040 meters) at Moonee Valley Oct. 22. The interim race planned is the Oct. 1 Turnbull Stakes (Aust-II, 2,000 meters).

Santic and her conditioner, Lee Freedman, might consider a third Melbourne Cup attempt, firstly in the hands of the Victoria Racing Club's handicapper, Greg Carpenter. He releases his assessments Sept 1. She carried 55.5kg (122 pounds) and a mitigating factor will be that she is seven.

Across the Tasman Sea, last year's New Zealand Derby hero Xcellent won similarly in tearing past the leaders at the end of the Hawkes Bay Challenge (NZ-I) to remain unbeaten in his homeland.

The Pentire son roared home at the end of the Hastings 1,400 meters to defeat group I winner Miss Potential by three-quarters of a length, Danehill son Shinzig was a close up third.